Martin Prud'homme, the chief of Quebec's provincial police, has been temporarily suspended pending an investigation into an allegation he committed criminal offences.
Public Security Minister Genevieve Guilbault told reporters Prud'homme has not been arrested, but he was relieved of his duties Wednesday after the government learned of the allegation a day earlier.
Guilbault said the investigation will be conducted by Quebec's police watchdog. She named the police force's deputy director, Mario Bouchard, as his interim replacement.
"As minister of public security I was informed yesterday ... of an allegation involving criminal offences involving the director of the Surete du Quebec, Martin Prud'homme," Guilbault told reporters. She wouldn't give any details of the nature of the allegation or when the offences are alleged to have occurred.
Guilbault said the decision to temporarily suspend Prud'homme was "administrative" and officially made by the secretariat that advises the government on senior public servants.
"Our government reacted quickly in order to reassure the population, to protect the institution of the Surete du Quebec, to preserve the public's confidence in our institutions, and especially, to avoid harming the ongoing investigation," Guilbault said.
Prud'homme recently returned to the provincial police after one year as interim chief of the Montreal police. He was brought in to deal with internal turmoil following the suspension of the city's police chief, Philippe Pichet, in December 2017.
An independent report found irregularities in the Montreal police department's internal investigations unit and a hostile and vengeful climate among officers.
The official Opposition Liberals hailed the government's decision. The party's public security critic Christine St-Pierre said the move to suspend Prud'homme was the one "all governments must make in similar circumstances." She called the situation "disturbing" and said she hopes more information will soon be forthcoming to reassure the public.
Prud'homme is married to the daughter of Robert Lafreniere, the former commissioner of Quebec's anti-corruption unit, UPAC. Before Lafreniere abruptly quit last October, opposition politicians had raised concerns about the family connection.
Prud'homme was named head of the police force in 2014 under the previous Liberal government.